Genetic engineering of a quantitative trait: metabolic and genetic parameters influencing the accumulation of laurate in rapeseed


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Laurate can be produced in the seed reserve oil of Brassica napus (rapeseed) by the expression of an heterologous lauroyl acyl-carrier protein thioesterase under the control of a napin seed-storage protein promoter. Analysis of a large number of transgenic events, and their progeny after self-pollination, shows that laurate can accumulate to nearly 60% of the triglyceride acyl groups. Up to 40 mol% laurate the phenotype is correlated positively with the number of thioesterase gene copies. The use of a tandem gene construct elevates the average laurate content. This effect correlates with an increased average number of T-DNA insertions per event; no cis-inactivation of tandem genes is apparent. Above 40 mol% laurate other factors apparently limit the phenotype. The expression timing conferred by the napin promoter is unlikely to be limiting, as it covers almost the entire period of oil deposition. A more significant limitation resides in the second acylation reaction of oil biosynthesis, as shown by the very low incorporation of laurate at the sn-2 acyl group. The novel, high-laurate oil is consequently rich in sn-1,3-dilauroyl triglycerides, but its unusual composition appears to pose no problems for mobilization during seed germination.